A number of innovative and adventurous students from Portadown College approached principal Simon Harper in the summer term of 2012 with an idea about travelling to Kenya to take part in a philanthropic project which had the potential to change the lives of thousands in an area called Chogoria.
Under the guidance of Mr Stephen McDowell and Mr Ian Flack, the students travelled with World Expeditions to take part in a Community Project Travel Program (CPT) from June 25 to July 9.
This was a “philanthropy” program with the main objective of improving local living standards, or the environment, in a meaningful and sustainable way.
The sixth-formers from Portadown College travelled to Chogoria at the foot of Mount Kenya where, with fundraising prior to travel, they paid for the installation of a well which will supply clean drinking water to thousands of people in that area.
Not only did they help to pay for the project, but they “got their hands dirty” under the guidance of local workmen to actually install the well.
This was a rare opportunity for local students to make a real difference to the lives of others in bringing the basic necessity of clean water to a third world community and to represent Portadown and their school positively abroad.
The trip provided tangible benefits for the local community in Chogoria who are in a dire economic predicament and receive little or no economic funding.
While they were in Kenya they undertook the trial of climbing Mount Kenya – the second highest mountain in the country standing at over 5,000 metres.
This extremely testing charity challenge was to help with the fundraising for the community project.
All of the boys who took part thought the experience was awe-inspiring and they have definite intentions to return to Africa to take part in similar projects in future. Many said that the community project was the highlight of an amazing trip.
“We finished the trip with a safari for the last two days. We drove around a safari park in open top jeeps and tried to spot the ‘Big five’. We got to see elephants, giraffes, water buffalo, rhinos, warthogs as well as getting to feed a black rhino. In our campsite where we sleeping for this part of the trip, we also had plenty of baboons. One day when we were out on safari, baboons actually unzipped the tent I shared with Aaron, went in and took the presents he had got for his family (thinking they were food). The baboons later dumped the gifts after realising that there was no food but this experience was probably the funniest moment on the trip for me. This was a once in a lifetime trip. A trip of new experiences, friendship and a real eye opener into the world in which we live.” - Jonny Burns
Our final climb was my favourite and most challenging. We camped at 4600 metres where we woke at half 3 to push for the summit. It was in minus figures, pitch dark and the climb was very steep for two hours to reach the top. I have never experienced anything like this before but I’m so glad I did because when I reached the top, it was beautiful to see the surroundings like this with the sun rise. It was a magical moment that I will never forget with this great team of friends.” – Aaron Abraham
“My greatest memory from the trip was the African sky at night while we were in the mountains. There wasn’t a street light in sight and the stars were truly breath-taking: something I won’t forget.” – Andrew Cinnamond
“My favourite task was helping to build the veranda. This forced me to learn and then apply a lot of new skills as I was required to break the rocks into smaller pieces with a sledgehammer, mix, pour and then level cement. I must admit that the Community project was my favourite part of the trip as it was really humbling to see the marked impact that we were able to have on the local people’s lives after only a week’s work.” - David Kennedy
“The highlight , possibly my greatest of the whole trip was climbing Mount Kenya. I have a fear of heights, and I was extremely nervous during the final couple of hundred metres. My movements were hesitant ones and my breathing was getting pretty heavy in the rapidly thinning air. This was not helped by the steepness of this final part of the climb, and the sheerness of some of the cliffs around us and the ever-increasing visibility just made me more conscious of the height we were at, and more reluctant to take my eyes off the ground a few feet in front of me. And even with the sub-zero chill and the freezing wind passing by strongly every now and again, beads of sweat had to keep being wiped from my face. But I was able to keep it together. With a lot of willpower! When we finally reached the summit, just in time to watch the sunrise, I felt the most satisfying sense of accomplishment I have ever felt before. And in that 20/30 minutes at the top of Kenya, looking out and seeing the never-ending vastness of landscape, mountains and lakes and clouds, I was able to appreciate creation like never before. I also reflected on the past year, and how all of the hard work put in by everyone in fundraising and general organisation had paid off. I reflected on how the trip had brought our team so close together, and that I couldn’t have been away with a better group of guys. I felt, that at 4985 metres, a fear had been conquered.” – Gary O’Reilly